Writing Advice

Another theft of a good topic from the LadyKillers Blog: Writing advice, with a Real Me twist.

Sometimes I think there’s more advice on writing than actual writing.

Oops. I’m breaking one rule already. The one that says Never use second person.

But I’ve finally found a rule I can live with.

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. – Stephen King

King reveals secrets to Minichino

I can’t be sure I understood perfectly what Stephen King said, but I’ll take a shot at it.

Write the book you want to write, alone in your room. Then, when you have a draft, participate as much as possible in the writing community. Enlist all the help you can for critique and pay attention to every suggestion. Not that you follow that suggestion verbatim, but you do something to address the problem.

The community laser, c. 1968

My first exposure to a grown-up career (excluding that of pizza chef on Revere Beach) was in physics research. The centerpiece was a six-foot long helium-neon laser in a basement laboratory where no fewer than eight or nine of us worked at any one time. Communal research, you might say, with one log book for entering data. Over a period of five-and-a-half years, I don’t remember a time when I was alone in the lab, even in the hours after midnight.

I did have to write my dissertation alone, but that was fun—without computers, I was committed to pasting dozens of photos onto multiple copies of the book, using rubber cement. A high!

When I thought of writing as a “career” (only my tax man knows whether it really is one), I worried that I’d be lonely. Could I work for hours on end with no company? No one to talk to across a glass tube, glowing red and providing the necessary stimulus to discuss the issues of the day? No one to share a couple of hard-boiled eggs with when there was no time to hit the White Castle across the street?

It turned out I didn’t have to worry. Because as the King says, after that first dump of words, I could open my door to all the members of Mystery Writers of America, the California Writers Club, and Sisters in Crime; to crowds of subject matter experts, critiquers, and beta readers.

Thanks to all of you!


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